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,A: As well as producing factsheets, we also produce review papers which give our research people a chance to go into a little more depth. The menopause and its symptoms are one of the areas where they have done this, and the paper
makes some very positive noises about the possible benefits of treatment for hot flushes. However, the paper acknowledges that there are a few methodological problems with the field, especially since some of the studies are from China where there less interest in checking whether acupuncture works and more in working out which treatments work better. This does not meet the standards set in the West, and although we have consistently maintained that the randomised double blind control trial from drug testing does not work for acupuncture, it remains the 'gold standard.' This underpins papers like this one
which tend to portray the glass as half empty rather than half full.
The thing to bear in mind is that the Chinese have been treating menopausal symptoms for over 2000 years. Although the theoretical basis of Chinese medicine is entirely different, based on theories of energy called qi, the Chinese have found ways of understanding the process of change in middle age which underpin a number of syndromes which provide treatment options.
Naturally, these have to be adapted to the individual because from a Chinese medicine perspective everyone is different, i.e. there are no formula treatments where the same needles work for everyone. However, the standard forms of imbalance can be interpreted within the context of the individual's energy to help them deal with the symptoms which arise.
The best advice is always to visit a BAcC member local to you to ask for an informal face to face assessment of what they think may be possible. This will be far more informative than our speculation at one remove, and the practitioner will probably be able to give you a good idea of what frequency and extent of treatment may be necessary. On balance, though, most of us find that we can treat hot flushes to a degree, and the main question we have is more a matter of how much change we can effect and how sustainable it is rather than does it work at all.
Q. Have sucessfully had acupuncture for fertility issues. Now in peri- menopause and can't get on with HRT or Prozac. Now cold turkey and hot flashes few and far between. Major issue is the mood swings - I am becoming increaslingly difficult to live with (ask my husband, kids and dog!). Can acupuncture help in this area?
A. There's no doubt that the research for treating menopausal symptoms is not conclusive, as our factsheet shows but with the wide variety of symptoms which women experience designing good trials is not that straightforward. One of the great strengths of Chinese medicine, though, is that it can offer an understanding of groups of symptoms in a way which would make no sense in western medicine but which would be immediately clear from the Chinese understanding of functions in the body and their relative levels of balance. A skilled practitioner may be able to make sense of what you are experiencing and attempt to adjust the balance to reduce the severity of the symptoms. The fact that you have had acupuncture before and that it has worked for you is very encouraging. Many people find that they are very receptive to one form of treatment over others, and this can often transfer to new symptoms which arise.
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